Volunteer Fire Department
By Lois Lewis
Fires in the early days of Celeste were distressful since there was no running water until 1936. An old "Courier" report of 1912 tells of the Elwood Institute fire. Elmwood was one of other schools called colleges. They were Perrin, in southeast Celeste, Gladstone, and Hawthorne in 1897. The last two were on the site of the present day schools other than the now high school on FM 1562. History seems to confirm that lower classes were included in these colleges. Two dormitories were built. One burned. One session Spanish students came from Mexico City. At that time in 1897, the Robinson school opened. Two years later, Celeste citizens established an academy, the Elmwood Institute. A brick building was erected for $10,000. This school existed until 1912, using the two-story bell towered brick building for public school through high school. The building burned in 1913. Soon, the old two-storied creamy white building that we all knew so long was built, and served faithfully until 1955 and the overnight fire. Fire Chief Jack Ruff and firemen saved nearby homes. Superintendents serving in that structure were Mr. Pyle, Mr. Gaden, Mr. Patillo, Dr. Dudney, Mr. E. H. Watson, Mr. J. G. Roach, Mr. J. J. Pearce, Mr. E. V. Shelton, and Mr. C. W. Heflin. Mr. G. W. Tillerson followed in the present structure, now housing the intermediate school.
Mr. Joe McKee, a patron and school booster wrote in "The Courier" following the fire that completely destroyed the old building. "Well do I remember that fateful morning on December 17, 1955. People were called out of their beds to witness one of the most heart-breaking disasters that has hit this community in many a day. For forty-three years it has served us well."
Volunteer Fire Department The most recent school fire was the loss of the old WPA built gymnasium. That disaster was in 1984. Grades one through seven earlier had been housed there. Yet fortunately the new grade school had been built. Firemen, with John Mize fireman, fought to save the old high school. The same was true of the gymnasium fire. Equipment and constant training with John Mize, fire chief and a dedicated group of men, saved the two adjoining buildings.
In 1949, the fire department purchased the next fire truck. They had the support of the City Council. For funds, the firemen, supported by the community, hosted a donkey ball game in the school gym. Donations came in other than the gate, "The Courier" reported.
In 1964, November, Lois Lewis reported, "Since two fires completed destroyed two homes and contents, the fire department has taken renewed interest in bi-monthly meetings. Under the guidance of Fire Chief John James with definite fire drills, a minimum of twenty men attend meetings. Group leaders are Johnnie Lyon, Ted Daniels, Joe Morton, and Doug Armstrong. A recent test was run 4 1/2 minutes to the fire plug at the great distance. The smaller truck operated in one minute."
In 1974, a headline read, "City in Need of a New Truck." That year the fish fry was begun as a bare payment. Fire Chief John James wrote, "The fire truck now in use is twenty-five years old. Insurance standards are not there. A new 500-gallon pump must be purchased or fire insurance will go up." The money came in. The equipment was added.
I'm sorry for a span of time--people and events are lacking in my scant supply here. Hopefully those who know will respond.
Thanks to Jack Ruff who brought published pictures and information.
(August 15,1991, The Celeste Courier)
Submitted by Sarah Swindell